Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Details, Details

Do you like them?

I have to admit, I don't. Not really. Yes, I want to read about the rolling hills or dirty streets, and I don't want to have to decide for myself if the house is big and filled with expensive paintings or little and filled with junk. Although if an author tells me about every single trinket, I'll cross it out with a magic marker. Get to the action already! But I'm not really talking about that.

I'm talking about the big 'ol squickfest I've gotten lately from stories that love to feature cruel, sadistic villains. Don't get me wrong, I love a good villain, even a psychopathic one. But I fear the CSI/NCIS world we now inhabit loves gruesome, gory details.

Mysteries need details. Sherlock Holmes' very existence hinged on them; and details woven into the narrative can be fun when I read the end of the book, where the detective brings them all together in the room filled with the usual suspects. I'll either feel like a brainiac or a dolt, depending on whether or not I spotted the clues, but I'll agree they are needed.

What bothers me is this: do I really need to know exactly how badly the body is mangled? Each and every cut, burn, and slice on a torture victim? While the victim is being tortured, so I can visualize it, real-time?

I know that sometimes a horrific scene can be powerful; used sparingly I can handle that. Even though I hated Jamie's rape in Gabaldon's Outlander, I could appreciate how well it was written. But it seems lately when I pick up everything from a historical to an urban fantasy to a suspense, and I'm talking romances y'all, I am treated to long descriptive passages about the gross, graphic things that can happen to human body. It could be a serial killer, a sexual pervert, a demon on a rampage, or a vengeful vampire queen; doesn't seem to matter. I need a bottle of TUMS by my side during the read, and a shower afterwards.

There's an old saying that less is more. I personally think it's more terrifying when the author leaves a little to my imagination. The writer doesn't know what scares me, but I do. If I get to fill in the blank and scare the crap out of myself, I'll call that author the best writer ever.

And if I wind up needing the TUMS anyway? That's my fault, not yours.


Missie said...

I agree.

I love the mysteries and the FBI thrillers, but seriously, I do not need every stinkin detail of how the mass murderer killed all his victims. Bleh. No likey.

I also do not need four paragraphs describing the hero's eyes and how they change from grey (Not GRAY, but greeeey) to silver back to blue depending on his mood. Enough already. He has nice eyes, end of description. And if I don't like the color eyes you gave him, my imagination will switch his eye color anyway, so there. Don't waste my time.

Bernita said...

Since I write that way, I enthusiastically agree that less is more.
I hope.

Robyn said...

I think eye color has come to symbolize changing emotion, not the actual shade. And switching color in my head? I do that, too!

We both fervently hope, Bernita.

StarvingWriteNow said...

My eyes change from blue to red, but that's usually because of a flash (or a hangover...).

Seriously, I don't think--with the possible exception of hazel--that eye color changes. Just our perception based on light and clothing and all that stuff.

PS: Hmm... maybe I should comment on the actual post here--I agree. Leave the NC-17 blood and gore out of my story; a mild R level is more than enough.

Robyn said...

Well, my kids would probably swear that they've seen my eyes change to red...